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Xiaomin Yue, Mark Lescroart, Edward Vessel, Irving Biederman; A test of the consistency of scene preferences across cultures. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):199. doi: 10.1167/7.9.199.
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People from a variety of developed world cultures express relatively similar preferences for scenes, preferring images that depict: a) large expanses (“vista”), b) where something is likely to happen (“mystery”), c) where there is a vantage point where they can see a lot and not be seen themselves (“refuge”), and d) natural rather than human-made entities (“nature”). Theorists (e.g., Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989) have argued that these preferences are an outgrowth of the evolution of perceptual/cognitive mechanisms that led to selection of locations in which game or threats could be safely detected in an environment that afforded water and useful plants. Biederman & Vessel (2006) showed that the four factors, taken together, could account for 62% of the variance in the ratings of scene preferences by USC undergraduates. An independent factor was novelty, with preferences declining with repetition for all the scenes. Would these preferences be expressed in individuals from a culture with little contact with western artifacts or scenes? The Himba are a semi-nomadic people in a remote region of Namibia with minimal contact with developed-world scenes or artifacts. To assess their preferences for viewing scenes (that could be correlated with Western preferences), the Himba (and Western comparison subjects) were shown a pair of scenes, side by side for a relatively brief period of time. The subject would then indicate which of the two pictures s/he would like to see again and that picture was then shown at 2X its original size in the center of the screen. There was moderate consistency of preferences across subjects within the Himba and Western groups but no agreement across groups. Preliminary analyses indicate that the Himba preferred depictions of novel scenes, whether natural or human made.
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